Joe Klein's Woody Guthrie (p. 1209) is a lesson in how to write the biography of a legendary, misery-dogged popular-music...


YOUR CHEATIN' HEART: A Biography of Hank Williams

Joe Klein's Woody Guthrie (p. 1209) is a lesson in how to write the biography of a legendary, misery-dogged popular-music figure. This garish hash is a lesson in how not to. Flippo, a Rolling Stone feature writer, has presumptuously decided to take us inside Hank Williams' poor, booze-soaked head; he fabricates pages of dialogue and narrates moment-by-moment action, including sex scenes; he even introduces apparently fictional characters and then goes inside their heads--one of Hank's one-night-stand women, for instance (""Some fuckin' king of country music. . . can't even get it up. . . fuckin' drunk. . . just wants a blowjob. . . fucker will by Gawd pay for this""). And the resulting book is, of course, less biography than biographical novel--a bad novel at that, with soap-opera prose (""Her hair, that lovely golden hair that he used to caress so tenderly"") and a maudlin portrait of Hank as the victim of the two gorgon-women in his life: mama Lilly (""She could smell money the way some women could smell a future full of perfume""); and ambitious, selfish first wife Audrey (""Built like a brick shithouse and fucked like a snake, oh my, Miss Audrey!""). Still, you can find the facts of Hank's life here, somewhere amid the pretentious melodramatics: deserted by his father at seven; alcoholic as a teenager (""he suddenly seemed to. . . understand a lot of things""); stuck on the honky-tonk circuit till Fred Rose (of Acuff-Rose) helped him to recording and Grand Ole Opry success; uppers, downers, morphine, decline, pathetic death at 29. And Flippo may in fact have more information on Hank's physical problems (a spinal birth defect) than has been presented before. But the self-indulgent, fact/fiction approach here makes it impossible to extract--or put faith in--Flippo's research; the attention to the musical achievement itself is minimal; and even Jay Caress' weak, spotty Hank Williams (1979) is preferable to this sort of exploitative, cavalier treatment.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1980


Page Count: -

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1980